Blog reading made easy – for those not interested in the detailed blow-for-blow on the day’s race, here’s how I tally the events that led to a 9-minute PR on the Boston course.
This was my best of 47 prior marathons. Here’s why:
- I followed a well-structured plan for four months (Hanson’s Marathon Method)
- I kept a very positive mindset – especially in the 24 hours leading up to the race
- I was confident I knew the course well
- The weather for the four months of training was very favorable and cooler than we usually experience
- I had very good support from my friends during training and for the Boston weekend
- I had a nutrition plan that I have proven works for me
- I came prepared for any weather conditions and selected the correct gear for this race
- I was inspired watching the elites on the morning of the race
- I wanted to run good time on a day when I believed I was ready to perform at a high level. (There would be no excuses)
Race morning was an early wake up – Julie had secured to role of sign language presenter at the Start line. That meant meeting at the side of the Fairmont Copley Hotel before 6:15 am for a ride on the bus with the Start and Finish line support crew. We met Jared Ward, a top American elite. He was waiting for hotel staff to bring him a razor. He is well known for his mustache, but he wanted everything else his face on “smooth” for the big race. I jokingly said he was the best groomed of all male elites, this got a nice conversation started before we left the hotel. And a photo!
Julie went for a restroom break and she brought a bagel and peanut butter back for me to eat in the lobby area. In that short time she was away, I was approached by Greg Levinsky, sportswriter for the Boston Globe. He asked me a few questions about my thoughts on the race, where I was from, and how I thought I’d fare in the weather. He published this on his Twitter feed:
Our “hosts” on the bus were the Massachusetts Track and Field group. They had a very spirited leader, Chris. Chris was a former school administrator. He gave instructions, greeted old friends, and organized his crew. Many of them had duties at the start line then they would also be at the finish line volunteering later in the day. They are an impressive hand-picked group of dedicated professionals.
Our ride to Hopkinton was made in a strong rainstorm. Our bus could not defog the windows quick enough, so one of the volunteers used his hands to clear the bus windshield. The State Police escort made for a rapid drive to the start, but not being able to see the road had me thinking… Was I completely off on what I chose to wear today?
Once at the start area, Julie and I stayed in the bus as the pouring rain slowed. She didn’t have to be on the stage until the beginning of the elite women’s wheelchair division, so I had time to shed the wet socks I wore and put on dry compression-length socks. These few moments of prep were very important and would affect my race day performance. It was decision time on the outfit I’d wear and what I’d bring with me. I committed to the water & Right Stuff mix bottle belt. I knew I’d wear another small pouch on the front of my belt to carry gels. I would be wearing a visor and Oakley photo-chromatic glasses. I elected to leave my gloves behind, it wasn’t going to be cold enough for those. I chose to leave my rain gear behind.
We left the bus and walked in the rain to the Start area. We were introduced to to Jack LeDuc and Teshania (sp) the two race announcers. They had nicely prepared scripts and a good interaction with each other. It was fun to watch them work as they called out instructions, trivia, and facts for the world’s oldest continually run marathon. Julie’s signing area was yet to be determined. They had never before included sign language provisions for the hearing impaired, so where she’d be and how this would work was new to the BAA folks. Everyone was excited to include this new element, they greeted Julie and I with much enthusiasm.
Once the details were sorted, Trooper Dan and Julie performed America the Beautiful and The Star Spangled Banner. It was memorable to watch, and to think that for the first time in 123 years of this race, they now had sign interpretations and Julie was the reason why!
It was followed by a jet flyover from two F-15 fighters. I spoke with “Dutch,” the Air Force Major responsible for calling in the jets on time. He said they come at exactly 9:50 am. Trooper Dan had to have his anthem sung and finished right as the jets came over, and he did. It was neat watching how that is coordinated!
We watched all of the elite waves start their race from a great viewing spot. I think the only person with better sight of the action was Dave McGillivray! Seeing the fastest ladies and men runners right before their big event was motivating for me. They had trained for months to make this day possible. They all had goals and high podium finishes in their plans. So much of what would determine their actual result would take place in their heads along the journey of 26+ miles.
Same for me.
I was in the second wave of runners, with a 10:25 am start time. I left the Start line area and went to find Charlotte in Corral #3. She was communicating with me by talk-texting on her Apple watch. I found her with a few minutes to chat before the ropes on the corrals were dropped and everyone blended together and took a few steps forward. I saw Steve Monks in his corral, but I didn’t see Lilia or Janet ahead of me in their place. Charlotte and I spoke a small bit about what our race plans were, and she confirmed I’d be able to see her parents and Ryker in Wellesley on the left side of the road. That would be something good to look forward to! We have started many marathons together, but none in the last 6 years. Meeting her extended family last night for dinner, meeting her new baby son, it was really one of the highlights of this trip.
Time to race!
The gun sounded and I began to walk, jog, trot, then run over the start line. The course curved and dropped off downhill right away. I kept myself to the left side of the road, it looked less crowded on that side. I saw a few runners use the sidewalk as we went down through the least populated zone on the route. Everything felt good, I was interested in how the narrow shoes (Nike Vaporfly 4%) would feel since I have a wide foot. They were laced up loose at the bottom and tight on top so as not to move around, so I was glad I wouldn’t have to readjust them on course. My first mile was done in 7:12, I was glad it wasn’t too fast or an 8+ minute mile spent jostling through crowds. When you start in your proper place in Boston, they have it worked out such that the people around you have a good pace that matches up to what I want to do.
I kept checking in on my pace with small glances down to my watch, knowing that my Garmin is accurate even when I run among other people and their GPS devices. The 4-5 miles leading down to Ashland and the flat area were all between 6:56 and 7:03 I remember. That’s what I wanted – smooth even-paced miles on the downhill section.
I ran similar paces all the way to the Newton Hills. This was the first race in a long time that I didn’t use a pace band. How hard would it be to add up 7 min miles each time at each mile marker? The watch beeps and displays the time for my last mile run. I didn’t need a band at all.
I sipped at the Right Stuff handheld water bottle I began the race with all the way to mile 9. I used a Gatorade ribbed bottle for this with plans of throwing it away when done. That worked. I ate Maurten gels at 5 miles, 10 miles, 17 miles and 23 miles. This was a change, I was supposed to do those each 5 miles but didn’t feel as if I needed an energy boost at 15. Next time I will bring 5 and have an extra. I did start using the belt mounted water bottle once the hand bottle emptied. I used water from the course often, as I kept alternating Right Stuff treated sips with small water cups from the course.
I felt like getting to the 10 mile mark was more work on my legs than I should have felt, My quads were not as fresh as I thought they’d be coming into the race. I haven’t run over 10 miles at 7 min pace, so this was new ground. I wasn’t nervous about it, but at 10 miles I figured I’d not feel my quads as much. Carry on…
I felt good running through Framingham Town Center and then Natick. Bigger crowds meant more to see and hear. I thought about what Eliud Kipchoge said – “If I am focusing on the pain, I am not focusing on the running.” Although I wasn’t in any pain, this advice helped keep me smiling at fans on the sidelines and thinking about running smoothly on this flat section.
I went through the Scream Tunnel positioning myself in the middle of the road. I saw some funny signs and was surprised to be at mile 12.5 already! The best sign read, “Kiss me I’m Asian and my parents are still in Asia!”
I came over the top of a slight hill and ran towards the 13 mile and halfway mark, still 10 seconds within perfect 7 min pace for the race. I saw Charlotte’s parents and son waiting right in front of the Caldwell Banker Realty office, I went close to the railing and thanked them for waiting out there. They said I looked fresh and they were tracking Charlotte as doing well, too. I expected to see Brenda and Roy Bleeker somewhere on that side of the road but I didn’t find them.
The run from Wellesley goes down a hill and I remember thinking about not feeling the tailwind of 12-15 mph. I felt a breeze from the side once when there was an open field on the right of the course and for a second time I felt wind coming off a lake near the end of Wellesley. The wind would have no effect positive or negative on my race day performance.
The sun popped out as I passed mile 16 and ran towards the highway overpass then the right turn in Newton. I remember thinking about how this turn at the firehouse is the beginning of problems for so many runners, pros and us regulars. I did good hill training and I knew how these would go. The first hill I went up nicely right at my pace. I took a gel and ran through the water stop cleanly. I saw others slowing or walking. For anyone that would have done their training in a cold wintery place, sun and temps in the high 60s would be disturbing. The next two hills are smaller, I kept putting my head down after picking a landmark and agreeing that I would run strong ’til I made it to the red banner, etc. Things stay flat a little before the final (Heartbreak) hill. I saw Chris and Tom right where they said they’d be, on the left side at the beginning of the climb. I ran by for a “high five” and Chris took a photo. To see people you know and get an encouraging word at an out-of-town race is an energy booster for me!
Once at the top, I knew I’d get a reality check. Could my legs cruise down the hill to St Ignatius and not bind up? They did! I was back on pace after letting off the gas up the hill. I was now in sight of the Prudential building, even though it was 5 miles away, it did get me excited knowing I was still on a good pace with less than 5 miles to go.
I saw Steve Monks ahead of me on the right side of the road. I ran next to him and said, “I’d know that pace anywhere!” He has a great disciplined stride, I do like watching him run. I don’t believe I have that form, but I am improving. I continued to Cleveland Circle and made the bend turn onto the long road that seems to go on forever to Brookline. You experience the T train on the left, and fans on the right. I again picked out landmarks and such to run to with a good pace, before a watch check, etc. I saw my pace was now dipping into 7:10-7:15 sometimes, and my lower legs were tightening. I sipped more Right stuff, the bottle had warm fluid in it now, but that wasn’t discouraging to me. I didn’t want to feel the upper legs pucker as if to cramp, that’s happened to me before and it’s a game changer. I would have to slow to control that and stop potential cramping.
I began seeing more red Wave 1 bibs – these folks were having a rough time if I found them after they started 23 minutes ahead of me. I wanted to see how many red bibs I could pass in these last few miles, that kept some of my thoughts away from tightening legs and my own potential slowing. I kept going, hoping the next mile marker would come and confirm that I was closer. I know I ran my first 5k in 21 minutes and change, so once I hit Mile 23 I figured I was 22-24 minutes from the end. I ate my last Maurten gel near the 23 mile mark. I also paused to stretch my legs and loosen things up as I would on a Saturday run at a water stop. I notice when I start up again I have a good springy, peppy feeling, so that may have helped keep my mental level high.
Mile 24 is on tree-lined Brookline Street, it seems like such a long straightaway. I passed the St Mary’s T station, where I stayed as a spectator two years ago. I looked left and saw the Dunkin Donuts I visited each morning that year heading in to the expo, etc. I saw the Citgo sign and the lights on at Fenway, that was good for me – just one more hill over the highway and into Kenmore Square. That’s Mile 25. My calves were perking a bit at this point. I didn’t want to stop, but I also didn’t want something to cramp with only a mile to go and force me to walk back. I ran through the loud intersection and past the Citgo logo painting on the road. Once I got near the hotel, I went down the ramp and up again. This is where I pulled over again and did a few yoga “walk the dog” type stretches on each calf muscle. I cracked my back on both sides and got ready to run the final two turns and through the finish. It was rough for this last 1/2 mile. Running up Hereford St, onto the long Boylston St straightaway, I felt like I was following Paul’s advice – just hanging on! I didn’t run the side of the road or interact with the crowd, I just wanted to get in and done. I knew my time was going to be good since I had so many good mile pace reports from my watch.
It’s a neat feeling when you realize WHAT you’re doing WHILE you’re doing it. It has happened to me before, but this one was really good. I remember thinking, “This is what a PR feels like.” My arms had been tingling since mile 24, my legs were soft, but here I was, finally done.
I knew Patty Hanley was giving out medals on the left side of the chute. I found her and had a few words along with other volunteers around her. I wanted to stop and not “move forward” as was the suggestion of every volunteer in the finish line area. Just breathe, smile, and enjoy this good weather and feeling.
I took the water and went right to the massage basement. I tried contacting Julie but she wasn’t answering right away. I left a message and the address for her to forward to everyone as to where to get the massages. Reception was low in the basement, but I was able to text with Madeleine in Florida and get updates on how everyone was doing. I received nice congratulations messages and wishes. The BAA app was slow to respond probably due to traffic and so many people tapping it for runner info.
The massage was good, I had no specific pain points, I enjoyed a few cups of chicken broth, then it was back out to the streets to look for everyone.
I found Julie first, she couldn’t maneuver through the security checkpoints, so I walked to the Fairmont Copley to meet her. Once there, I saw Yuki being interviewed by the Japanese media contingent. And I met Sara May Berman, the 1969, 1971, and 1972 Women’s Champion! I spoke with Joan Benoit Samuelson’s daughter as her mom did interviews after her 3:04 marathon. Very inspiring, she is 61 years old.